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Blue Thunder

Director: John Badham

Well...it's about a helicopter. A souped up military experiment chopper that can hear through walls with a telescopic microphone, a camera zoom range of thousands of feet, a thermograph that can see through walls, a database that acts as a personnel internet, and machine guns that can unload a thousand rounds per minute, not to mention back up 3/4" video capabilities tucked into the rear cab.

So, a salty cop with a track record for losing his ***** gets the job of taking her for a spin, this Blue Thunder, and along the way finds out his old war nemesis from Vietnam is helping spearhead the government operation that is still debugging the chopper. More intrigue and espionage (to use bigger words that reflect something much smaller scale) ensue and soon or a later, it's a showdown between one rogue cop and the city of Los Angeles police force.

I liked the writing for this film. It has little things thrown in to keep you interested in the characters. Daniel Stern is a rookie and often the butt of department jokes, but he eventually is allowed to stretch out a bit and show some personality, which makes us kind of care for his character. He's funny and sharp, but still kind of a dope, too.

Scheider rarely does bad work, and this is no exception. He carries the movie without a doubt. He has a very natural way of carrying on that is understated yet still manages to hit those power chords of macho riffing needed to keep a movie like this large and in charge.

Surprisingly, it's Malcolm McDowell who is the weakest link in Blue Thunder. He's not bad or anything. He plays his part as a snakey and annoying villian well enough, it's just that he feels cartoonish next to the rest of the cast, who all seem to have more invested in the picture, especially Candy Clark as Scheider's on-off again girlfriend and Warren Oates as the Lieutenant who keeps up Scheider's ass just enough to protect him because they have a history together.

The helicopter sequences are still exciting to this day, and even moreso because it's all REAL. There are no CGI backgrounds or maneuvers. If something needs an explosion, it gets one. There are some skyscraper city action shots that are some of the best I've seen, and the miniature work is phenomenal. Also a virtuoso display is the tight editing that keeps things moving and engaging. This film was shot with a great deal of care and it really shows, even to an untrained eye, you will pick up on the subtle yet effective aesthetic of Blue Thunder. It wants to be the color blue, and it picks its moments to be such. You'll see.

It's just a cool little movie with some expert care put into it.

Credit should also go to Don Jacoby writing most of the material and everyone's favorite nut job Dan O' Bannon who really is more an inspired character behind the pen than I have seen documented before. His sense of humor is ace. He knows his way around a script, as does Jacoby with his large contribution to the film as a whole. I believe O'Bannon's name was first but he contributed only outlines with Don Jacoby fleshing out many of the details and dialog.

John Badham used to make some damn fine movies back in the day, he really did.
Blue Thunder is among his best work.